I understand why many people are hesitant to give instant replay a prominent role in baseball. Baseball is a slow game and that aspect makes it unappealing to many fans who prefer more up-tempo sports like basketball and football (though to be honest, I think football is a pretty slow game too, but that’s not the point).
But if you look at how both football and basketball have used instant replay, the blueprint for success is there. Those games have not been slowed down because of this technology and are certainly improved by it.
Earlier in the season, I said there was a need for a better system of determining balls and strikes – one that would help eliminate human error – but I don’t think instant replay is the answer to that, because if you still have an umpire reviewing the call, it’s still a judgment call.
Things like out or safe, whether the ball was caught, etc, though are pretty clear right or wrong issues. So why can’t baseball use replay to revisit these plays?
Of course, I am inspired to write this because the Yankees were on the losing end of a terrible call at first last night. A-Rod threw out Christian Guzman easily and yet the play was called safe. If there was instant replay, one quick look would overturn that call. That play ended up being critically important, as Nick Johnson tripled on the next at-bat, scoring Guzman from first. At the time, I immediately said “you know this will end up being a one-run game.” And, unfortunately, I was right.
There were, by my calculations, three pretty bad calls last night. The Guzman call was the most egregious, though there were also two pretty bad ball-strike calls. One was on Mark Teixeira, who watched what should have been strike 3 go over the plate, the same pitch that struck Nick Swisher out looking, only it was called a ball. What did Tex do with his newfound life at the plate? Grounded out on the very next pitch. So yeah, bad call, but no harm done. Melky Cabrera on the other hand, took a 3-2 pitch that almost hit him in the leg, yet it was somehow called strike 3. A bigger deal obviously, because Melky should have walked in a game where the Yanks were desperate for baserunners.
Yeah, the Yankees ended up with their chances anyways, but it is disappointing to have to sit and wonder what would have been had Guzman been called out at first. Why not give each team one challenge a game, similar to football, so they can use replay to challenge what could be a game-changing call? Would that really slow the game down so much? Not if done right.
As for the game itself, it seemed like the Yankees were destined to rally and I really have to wonder: why does Girardi not have A-Rod running there? As soon as Cano came to the plate, I noted how smart it was that the Nats went back to double-play depth since Cano hits into more DPs than any other Yankee. Surely, Girardi must know this as well. A couple pitches in, it became obvious that Cano was going to keep making contact. Why not at least try to hit and run? I know A-Rod is not currently the runner he once was, but you still think he’d have to be going in that spot. My biggest complaint about Girardi tends to be his knack for overmanaging, so it’s surprising for him to just sit back and do nothing in that spot.
All-in-all, a disappointing game, but it’s not quite the apocolypse some say a loss to Washington is. The Nats had their best pitcher going and he pitched a gem. The Yanks had their worst pitcher starting. They almost won it anyways, but unfortunately the game just produced a loss and a bunch of “what–ifs.”